Michael Carpenter and The Speak

Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter “The Big Radio”

You’d have to go back almost six years for Michael Carpenter’s last big solo release. Few artists are as reliable as the Australian singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer. You’re just guaranteed to get excellent power pop and he doesn’t disappoint here.  The opener “Don’t Open That Door” is another classic melodic gem, with layered guitars and harmonies underneath a catchy hook. The pounding drum starts “She’s In Love With Herself,” a fast paced put down that breaks into guitar nirvana between each chorus. And the gems continue with “Blind,” the powerful “I’ve Been Lovin’ You” and each tune that follows (not a note of filler here). He gives a shout out to a major influence “Chrissie Hynde” and even a deep bluesy rocker with “Too Late.” Right now its a download only, but CDs are coming in January.

There is a rumor that this may be Michael’s last album, and I can only hope that he doesn’t permanently hang up his recording hat (I’ll wait another six years or more if he keeps giving me music like this). Even though Michael is often dubbed “a one man dynamo” who runs his own label, works as a recording engineer, writes for an Australian recording magazine, etc. I selfishly want more of his great songwriting and performing. Like his last solo album, this easily gets a spot somewhere in my ever crowded top ten list for 2015.


The Speak

The Speak “Beautiful People” EP

The Speak are from Brighton UK, led by singer-songwriter Nick Conroy who “takes up where the sixties left off.” While clearly starting with those classic influences (The Beatles, The Who) The Speak are not some slavish retro band, but a modern pop group that concentrates on melody, synth and solid guitar craft.

“I’ll Be Fine” starts with a rousing Lenny Kravitz-like riff, and gets you moving with a catchy chorus (try to spot all those sixties references). “Beautiful People” and “Sorry” have their moments of slickly produced psyche-rock. “Invisible” reminds me of of Trevor Rabin-era Yes in spots, and “Life” is another highlight with plenty of arena rock grandeur. The band self produced and distribute this one, so pick up a physical copy on their website.

CD Baby

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Tuesday Goodies: Cliff Hillis, Lee Ketch and Steve Rosenbaum

As this is a holiday week, I’d love to start giving out the musical goodies in advance of Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for all these artists, so pass the gravy and a few free downloads:

Cliff Hillis

Philly singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Cliff Hillis has released a new song, “Love Not War,” from a forthcoming EP out in February. Love And War is Hillis’s followup to the power popster’s 2014 release, Song Machine. Download “Love Not War” from iTunes. Visit itunes.apple.com/us/album/love-no…gle/id1055385972

Contorno and The Obleeks – Chicago guitarist Lee Ketch (Mooner) has few musical projects here. His brother Andy plays drums and does vocals too. Check it out – its all a FREE download!

Steve Rosenbaum was a pleasant surprise in the new IPO Vol. 18 compilation. He’s got an three song EP out there “Making A Mess Of Fun” and its a got earnest melodies and plenty of great jangling guitar. It’s not a free download, but it’s easily worth the 3 bucks. Hopefully we’ll see more from Steve in 2016!

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Elvyn and Cleaners From Venus


Elvyn “Valley Of The Kilowatt Hour”

Elvyn is another artist we haven’t heard from in several years. This Toronto band still knows how to expertly craft a solid melody with catchy hooks as evidenced by the opener “Ellie.” Lead vocalist/lead guitarist Ryan Beerman is in fine form as on “Here We Surrender” is part Alan Parson Project and part Fastball. “Landslide Cities” has an infectious beat with great call-and-response harmonies in the chorus.

And as soft as much of the melodies are, it still can rock with the intensity as “AM” is chock full of vibrant guitar riffs. Other highlights include the Beatlesque sweetness on “True Luv Can’t Hide” and the Everly Brothers styled ballad “Robins Song.”  Overall, each song is a very soothing listen (with just enough riff accents) and highlights the bands wistful approach. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | CD Baby

Cleaners from Venus

Cleaners From Venus “Rose of the Lanes”

Martin Newell (aka Cleaners From Venus) is still going strong, and for the Anglophile there are few musicians who can compare. Newell is the self described “poet laureate of late summer melancholy,” and the songs are all simply produced using a Tascam DP-006 Pocketstudio. But even stripped down Newell is  joy to hear as he makes his way through these 15 tracks.

The high addictive jangle of “Rose of The Lanes” is a song that lyrically references the BBC’s Doctor Who. “Little French Blue” is a fuzzed-up gem and the acoustic melody of “Isn’t She The Biz” are what you listen to Newell for.  A series of songs look loving back to Newell’s youth with “Third Summer Of Love” and “Liverpool Judy.” The “nite-club” styling of “Tatterenalion” is another charmer.  He runs out of steam a little towards the end, with the exception of the Davies-like “Denmark Street,” but this is still a highly recommended collection of tunes.


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Dan Israel and Secret Trees

Dan Israel

Dan Israel “Dan”

Fans of Tom Petty, Dylan and The Traveling Wilburys will be quite taken by the tight melodies of Dan Isreal. It’s not that Dan is a bundle of sunshine, but he’s a music veteran with typical country-western themes of heartache and loss running through his compositions. “Be With Me” has a catchy bounce and Katie Geartys’ vocal harmonies are a perfect compliment.

“You Don’t Love Me Anymore” is a radio-ready rocker of romance-gone-wrong featuring Adam Levy (Honeydogs) on guitar and Bethany Larson on vocals. The 12-string electric-guitar jangle goodness of “Can’t Believe It” and “Lonely Too” play out like lost Wilco tunes, and overall the quality of songs is pretty consistent. Dan’s been playing for a while (this is his 13th album) and he’s definitely an artist who deserves to be heard.

Amazon | CD Baby

Secret Trees

Secret Trees “Till We Find Ourselves”

Los Angeles-based Secret Trees excel in creating atmospheric chamber pop that soothes – the opener “Beautiful Forever” is a flowing melody with amazing harmonies. Taking influences from Tears for Fears, Bon Iver and The Beach Boys – it really made me take notice.

Unfortunately the next several tracks are understated minimalism in “Some Room To Spin” and the sleep inducing moodscape “Til We Find Ourselves.” Thankfully we get back to something melodic to go with the flawless technique on “Better Things” with its sweet bridge full of strings and acoustic guitar. The roots flavored “The Sound of Your Love Breaking” and “One More Lonely” round out the best tracks. Produced with a lush sonic depth, this is a band you should check out and I hope we’ll get to hear more in the near future.


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Three Hour Tour “Action and Heroes”

Three Hour Tour

Three Hour Tour “Action and Heroes”

It seems like forever since I last heard Darren Cooper’s band Three Hour Tour. Truth is it’s been 5 years and I’m thrilled we have some new music with Action and Heroes. Darren still has Adam Schmitt as his engineer and producer, and Brad Elvis covers the drums. The opener “March of The Fakers” is a heavy with fuzz guitar riffs, war drumming and blistering solos that wouldn’t be out of place on a Foo Fighters or GBV album. Darren crafts a personal statement that’s sure to resonate with music fans. It goes without saying that fans of The Grip Weeds, Myracle Brah or The Well Wishers should get this album immediately.

Overall, the music is high quality power pop, and nearly every track is a compelling listen. “Afterlife” is a classic rocker and the title track is a sing-along anthem, stating “we could use another hero in this world.” The late 70’s arena rock influence (specifically Boston) is strong on the brilliant “Room With A View” and “Tonight.” Darren does get a bit indulgent on the Zepplinesque “No Guarantee,” but my favorite track here is “Somewhere” with its goosebump inducing minor chord structure and hook in the chorus. Highly Recommended and it makes sense to add it to my top ten list for 2015.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

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